dinsdag 15 mei 2018

MUI and MORA: Sorcerer's apprentices?

After retiring from Utrecht University Martien van Bruinessen was for one year a research fellow at NUS, working (also) on an inventory of activities of G├╝len people in East and Southeast Asia. We are still waiting for the result of this research. Later he was for some time a fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies. From this period we have now a fascinating comparison of government and Islam in Turkey (Diyanet) and Indonesia (Ministry of Religion, MORA or Depag) and the Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI).
It starts with a striking subtitle: a budget for an army, summarising the great budget for Diyanet in Turkey, in euro: €  3.2 billion per  year (for mosques, mosques personnel and the secondary Imam-Hatip schools;) while Indonesia has €3.85 billion per year for MORA, even more than the Ministry of Education. Compared to two 'full Islamic States' like Pakistan and Egypt, the two countries spend much more budget from the central government to religion.
The purpose in the two countries was to educate, and build 'enlightened' personnel. But in both cases the effect was also the social mobility of marginalised conservative groups which received much more access in many layers of the national government and other sectors of society. Even terminology like the 'Trojan horse' is here used.

In both countries popular religion and Islamic streams that are under attack by orthodox Muslims became victims of this policy. In Turkey it were the mystical groups, tariqa, but even more Alevi Muslim groups which are sometimes labelled as 'Islam without sharia' who were under attack. Alevi Islam is not accepted as Islam (in Albania they are accepted as a religious identity of their own, but not in Turkey). Sunni mosques are now often built in fully Alevi villages. Religious education is orthodox sunni Islam, both in Turkey and Indonesia. In the latter country the abangan identity as well as new movements labelled as aliran kepercayaan are reduced to cultural expressions, but not as serious religious alternatives. The Indonesian MUI, in the Suharto perio quite strictly under government control, has become independent (also financially: certification for halal food proved to be a gold mine!) and sides now more and more with conservative Islam, banning pluralism, Indonesian-style Islam and liberal Islam.
In Indonesia this development culminated under SDA (´saman dengan yang diatas´, who entered prison like some ministers before him), Suryadharma Ali, close to SBY, who received a much higher budget than his predecessors and could without problem exclude Ahmadiyyah Muslims from any protection by the state. On his suggestion Yudhoyono even signed a call to Ahmadiyah people to 'return to true Islam'.

Goethe wrote a poem on a young man who learned with a sorcerer, but could not manage the mess had made. Famous is the saying Die Geister, die ich rief ("The spirits that I called, I could no longer control"), a garbled version of one of Goethe's lines (Die ich rief, die Geister, / Werd' ich nun nicht los), which is often used to describe a situation where somebody summons help or uses allies that he or she cannot control any longer, especially in politics. Bruinessen praises the critical studies of UIN, the Islamic Universities, built under the programme of MORA, but also describes some of the dangers of this kind of religious support.
It reminded me of the first paragraph of a text book I used in the last years of academic teaching, 2004-2006.  It began with the American attack on Saddam Hussein  of Iraq. After he was deposed, the Americans hoped that the Shi'a Muslims would be active in preparing the free elections for democratic institutions. They were surprised to see that the first important popular organization was for the pilgrimage to Kerbela, banned for so long by Saddam Hussein!

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